30th December to 7th January
Our first cycle for 8 days, we had 65 miles to travel to Dubai. It was amazing approaching the towering city, although the roads weren’t exactly bike friendly.
Holly had arrived a couple of hours ahead of us and was on the private beach at Ash’s place on The Palm. We wondered down Dom catching another emotional reunion on film (yes with little violins playing away), the first thing she said to me was “you look awful” thanks baby. She did have a point though; I had grown my facial hair since Rome (7 weeks), had just cycled 70 miles and looked like I’d just been wrestling with Dom in a sand pit. I couldn’t wait to lose the face fungus (as my Gran calls it) but I wanted to give Holly a flavour of what it would be like to be engaged to a Hobo. We all went up to Ash’s place for some coronas and wine and for a good old catch up, the evening spilled onto a bar and then we somehow managed to blag our way onto a huge yacht party. Suspicion soon grasped us when we noticed the boat was full of overweight middle aged men and a group of 7 young girls who can’t have been older than 19 all huddled together. We quickly left, fortunately the boat hadn’t set off otherwise we’d have been in trouble and maybe even featured in some dodgy blue movie somewhere.
The following morning we met the City Seasons media manager, Loka. She was in the process of arranging a press conference for us at the Hotel and wanted to hear more so she could prepare a press release. We also had a chance to meet Thomas Tapken the hotel group General Manager as well as Issam Nizam, the hotel manager. Thomas is a wonderful person and I am in awe of the great charity work he does for childrens charities. He has set up a Bangkok night time run, built villages in Thailand and cycled from Thailand to Dubai in aid of Little Wings Foundation who helps African children get medical help in Dubai. Thomas recognised the great cause we are cycling for an instantly picked up the phone to speak to all his media contacts, this is where the Dubai media whirlwind began, minutes we had a radio interview and within hours we had TV as well as the region’s biggest newspapers confirmed.
The New Year celebrations were amazing. Not only did I get to spend it with my soul mate, a good friend, brother and other good company but I was in Dubai, wearing jeans and shoes and did not think about cycling all night. We went to another friends place for a house party and some cocktails before seeing in the New Year at Media One hotel, unfortunately for us no-one told us it was a white party and we were the only ones in non white outfits!! We had a great view of the fireworks at Atlantis at midnight and Dom got a cheeky New Year kiss with a stunning girl called Amie. Cupid was sitting on his shoulder that evening!
New Years day was a right off; we chilled out watching movies and nursing sore heads, a good time to relax especially as it chucked it down outside.
We used Saturday to do some filming – we needed some takes of Jon’s story ready for our friend Adam to help with editing. It was tough for Jon talking about it with a crowd watching, and wasn’t helped that he can’t concentrate with no food – must be his caveman hair!
Our first round of media started on Sunday morning with Jon being interviewed on Dubai92, followed in the afternoon with Abu Dhabi TV filming interviews and lots of cycling round car parks! We managed to fit in a cinema trip to see the 3D film, Avatar and we were totally blown away!
Dad arrived in the hotel lobby at 8am (the hotel arranged a pick-up), and if he thought it was going to be a nice rest, he was very much mistaken! It was so nice to see him after waving goodbye over two months ago in Beavais, France. After breakfast we rushed off to Wolfi’s bike shop to get the bikes serviced, and then I had lunch with Amie, while the others chilled at the hotel. So embarrassing though as I couldn’t get any money out of the ATM, so she had to pay! At least it was a good excuse to try to see her again before I leave Dubai. Jon and Dad tried to do some video editing with Adam, but with all the files in wrong format, Adam arranged for a professional studio edit on Wednesday.
Our Tuesday morning press conference was amazing (like a footballer signing), with over 20 people from TV, radio and press publications all wanting to interview us, take photos and film us on the bikes. A proud Dad even got interviewed by a flirty Filipino! Dad paid for us to have an afternoon off on a desert safari, including dune bashing, sand boarding and camel riding. I was keen to get back to the city as quickly as possible as we were meeting Ash, Jodie and of course Amie for some goodbye drinks. By calling the driver Schumacher, that was all the incentive he needed to hit 140 on the highway! Dad came with us (so second date with Amie involved me bringing my Dad!), but it was nice for him to see another area of Dubai and meet with everyone. As Holly, Jon and Dad headed back to the hotel, Ash, Jodie, Amie and I thought a rerun of wii bowling would be a good idea (no of us could remember the last series on NYE!), but finishing another wine bottle at 3am probably wasn’t! At least I got to spend some more time with Amie. She is an amazingly gorgeous girl and I hope we continue to stay in touch while we finish our challenge.
Probably not what I wanted to be doing with a hangover, we spent most of Wednesday in the edit studio doing the promotional video which Jon wants to send out to TV companies to try and get a documentary commissioned. At least “The Colonel” came to the rescue with a Zinger Tower! The studio also happened to be next to PHD’s office, so it was cool to pop in and see everyone who worked there. Trying to fit everything else in today was a struggle, and Jon didn’t get back to the hotel with the final edit until 11pm, but it was brilliant and fingers crossed that someone might be interested.
So off we go. Lots of mincing around this morning meant we didn’t leave Dubai until about 11.30am, and navigating the 6 lane (each way!) motorways was interesting. It didn’t help seeing “no cycling” signs and getting two punctures on the hard shoulder as we headed for Hatta. We had tried to keep fit by swimming in the hotel pool, but quite frankly that was never going to cut it! With a headwind, slight incline and the heat of the day we struggled along route 44, and made the 55 mile journey to the holiday hotel just before sunset over the jagged hills. My first UAE hotel negotiation saved us about £20, and our last mixed grill platter was a £10 bargain!
Probably the most civilised border crossing in the world, entering Oman couldn’t have been easier. We left at 7am, so saw the most amazing sunrise over the continuing hills from yesterday. A blue mist hung over the valley, and soon we were blasting down the race track smooth roads towards Muscat. With a 95 mile cycle today, we were all set for ‘roughing it’ on the side of the road. We found a suitable area about 4pm, and set up camp, before completing all the equipment videos to upload to youtube at our next web point.
Our first 24 hours in Oman have been impressive. Apart from trying to sleep in a sweaty tent, next to a motorway, with boy racers getting firecrackers out of their car exhausts, a mosque giving it large at 5am, we were ready for another 95 mile monster day. I love camping so much!
Back to the people of Oman – they are so warm and polite. Even a supermarket assistant wanted a chat! Another steaming day, it went up to about 27 degrees, so our cycle tans are coming on a treat!
As we approached Muscat, our achievement so far dawned on us. After 98 days and 4,300 miles we had reached the Tropic of Cancer. We filmed (badly) a iphone video as the light was fading, before arriving at the airport. It must be said that we weren’t smelling of roses after 190 miles and no shower! Dad had managed to source us a bike shop where we could get a couple of boxes, which meant no dodgy Egyptian packing in sight! I went to collect them as Jon waited at the airport, which was well funny as I proceeded to take the taxi driver’s car apart to try and get them in. In the end they were hanging out of the boot, and the 20 minute drive back to the airport was filled with an annoying “your trunk is open” warning voice! A two for one blag into the business lounge meant we got a shower and buffet dinner, before hearing the final call to Mumbai.